If you use earbuds to listen to music or other audio, you know how useful and enjoyable they can be. Not only are they easily portable, but they make it possible to listen directly to streaming media from your smartphone while you’re on the go. Although your speakers at home might provide better audio quality, many earbuds have improved greatly, making them an excellent option. If you aren’t keen on bothering others with the sound coming from your phone or laptop, earbuds are a great way to get a personal listening experience. With these principles in mind, it is important to understand the risks that come with earbud use. Although they are useful and enjoyable devices, they can also damage your hearing. Particularly when they are played at too loud a volume for too long a time, they can even cause permanent hearing loss. Let’s take a closer look at the risks posed by earbud use, as well as what you can do to protect yourself from incurring hearing damage from recreational noise.
Earbuds and Hearing Loss
When you play audio through earbuds, these tiny devices are projecting a speaker directly into your ear canal. By playing sound at such a close range, that sound doesn’t need to be very loud in the world to become decipherable for the user. With the availability of streaming media, it is more possible than ever to use earbuds for an extended duration. You might even wear earbuds to binge watch a television show, play a video game for hours, or listen to a marathon session with an audiobook. This possibility for extended duration is a risk with earbud use. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs through a combination of volume and duration. For instance, if you listen to a sound at 85 decibels, you can endure that sound for 8 hours without incurring hearing loss. However, for each additional three decibels of sound beyond that threshold, the amount of time is cut in half. You can only listen to a sound at 88 decibels for 4 hours without risking hearing loss, and so on. With this principle in mind, you can see why earbuds are so dangerous. These devices can play relatively loud sounds, and they make it possible to blast that sound into your ears for a long duration. Others will not even know how loud your music or other audio is, and without bothering others you can still do serious damage to your hearing. When you use your earbuds in the context of other background noise, the problem becomes even worse. For instance, if you wear earbuds on a train or bus, you are not only getting the audio from your earbuds; you can also hear the background noise coming from the mode of transportation and voices in the vicinity. This combination of noise can even prompt you to turn up the volume on your earbuds. By adding background noise to very loud earbuds, you might be hearing more volume than is comfortable. When you return home to a quiet place, you might realize how loud your earbud volume has become.
What can you do to protect yourself from hearing damage due to earbud use? You will need to engage in a program of limiting both the volume and the duration of use to make sure you are not harming your hearing. For general use, it is a good rule of thumb to keep the volume on your device at roughly 75 percent of the maximum. Some devices can produce quickly damaging sound at full volume, so avoid raising your device to that level when earbuds are in use. You can also limit the time of use. Although the immersive experience of listening to a movie or television program with headphones can be quite enjoyable, this experience should only happen with the volume on your device at a relatively low level. If you are worried about the possibility of incurring hearing damage through your earbuds, take these precautionary steps to stay safe. You can also get a hearing test to establish a baseline level of ability. We will use that baseline to judge if you have lost any hearing ability in the future.